Contingent Existence and the Reduction of Modality to Essence

Mind 128 (509):39-68 (2019)
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Abstract

This paper first argues that we can bring out a tension between the following three popular doctrines: (i) the canonical reduction of metaphysical modality to essence, due to Fine, (ii) contingentism, which says that possibly something could have failed to be something, and (iii) the doctrine that metaphysical modality obeys the modal logic S5. After presenting two such arguments (one from the theorems of S4 and another from the theorems of B), I turn to exploring various conclusions we might draw in light of these results, and argue that none comes cost free. In the course of laying out possible responses to my arguments, we'll have a chance to evaluate various doctrines about the interplay between contingency and essence, as well as develop some alternative reductions of metaphysical modality to essence. I don't decisively come down in favor of one response over the others, though I say some things that point towards the conclusion that essence has no role to play in reducing metaphysical modality.

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Trevor Teitel
University of Toronto, St. George Campus

Citations of this work

Modality is Not Explainable by Essence.Carlos Romero - 2019 - Philosophical Quarterly 69 (274):121-141.
Knowing how things might have been.Mark Jago - 2018 - Synthese (Suppl 8):1-19.
Holes in Spacetime: Some Neglected Essentials.Trevor Teitel - 2019 - Journal of Philosophy 116 (7):353-389.

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References found in this work

Writing the Book of the World.Theodore Sider - 2011 - Oxford, England: Oxford University Press.
Essence and modality.Kit Fine - 1994 - Philosophical Perspectives 8 (Logic and Language):1-16.
To Be F Is To Be G.Cian Dorr - 2016 - Philosophical Perspectives 30 (1):39-134.
On the Plurality of Worlds.William G. Lycan - 1988 - Journal of Philosophy 85 (1):42-47.

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